Weightlifter Shailaja Pujari cries foul

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/w/weightlifting.jpg' class='caption'> Distraught after losing the lone Olympic berth to Monika Devi, woman lifter Shailaja Pujari claimed she would have been a better bet in Beijing

Updated: July 23, 2008 16:35 IST
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New Delhi:

Distraught after losing the lone Olympic berth to Monika Devi, woman lifter Shailaja Pujari on Wednesday claimed she would have been a better bet in Beijing.

Defying a gag order by the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF), Shailaja said if Tuesday's selection trial in Bangalore was the yardstick, she had better chance of doing well in Beijing than Monika.

Shailaja (75kg) lifted a total of 236kg (106kg snatch+ 130 clean and jerk) at the repeat selection trials which should have placed her seventh in the latest rankings while Monika's (69kg) lift of 224kg (101+123) ranks 15th.

Shailaja said though Monika won a silver and two bronze in the Asian Championship in Japan in April-May, the berth was won by team effort and if her performance at the selection trial was the basis then she should have been selected.

"I lifted 236kg, 12 kg more than Monika, and my total is seventh in latest world rankings and naturally I have more chance to perform better than her in the Olympics. I am not being able to digest why I was not selected," Shailaja said.

The selection trial was marred by controversies right from the beginning with IWF General Secretary B R Gulati being accused of taking bribes to get Shailaja selected after the first selection trial in Pune on June 29.

This led to the Sports Ministry ordering a probe into the bribery scandal and asking IWF to cancel the trials and select Monika.

Shailaja said Gulati told her that she was not selected because of the Ministry directive.

"I was told by IWF General Secretary B R Gulati that some directive came from the Sports Ministry and that had clinched the issue for Monika. I don't know whether it is true or not, but I am really disappointed and at the same time helpless," she said.

The lifter from Andhra Pradesh, whose promising career was tainted by a flunked dope test prior to the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games for which she was banned for two years, seemed to have resigned to her fate and said she is not thinking of lodging any formal complaint to higher authorities as of now.

"I was told verbally by General Secretary not to speak to the media, but I have to speak out. I have made my verbal complaint to the President and General Secretary on the selection and I am not going to do anything right now. I will return home today and think of the future course of action after reaching home," said the lifter from Srikakulam district.

IWF selection committee chairman and Shailaja's mentor Bedati Venkataramiah refused to confirm or deny any directive from the Sports Ministry to the committee on the selection issue, saying they have been verbally told not to speak to the media.

"I can't say anything on the selection issue. I and two other selectors have been told by President (Harbhajan Singh) and General Secretary (Gulati) not to speak to the media about the selection. I am helpless," he said.

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